A-Rod honored for historic month

A-Rod honored for historic month

NEW YORK -- They knew the winner of this award midway through April. On second thought, it's been locked up since the eighth inning of the Yankees' first game of the season.

Alex Rodriguez homered to left-center field in that game against the Devil Rays -- the first blow of a historic month that earned him the Sharp Presents the American League Player of the Month for April.

In 23 games, A-Rod hit .355 and led the league with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs -- one shy of Juan Gonzalez's Major League record for most RBIs in April. Only Albert Pujols of the Cardinals had hit that many homers in April.

Rodriguez's chances of breaking either record ended when Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin induced an inning-ending double play in a 7-4 loss to Boston on Sunday. A-Rod became the first Yankee to have as many as 14 home runs and 34 RBIs in a calendar month since June 1961, when Roger Maris accomplished the feat with 15 homers and 35 RBIs.

So, what does the award mean to him?

"I've done it before," said Rodriguez, who also hit seven doubles and scored 27 runs while posting a .415 on-base percentage and slugging .882 in April. "You pay the price and you expect to reap some rewards. I don't worry about what happened yesterday or tomorrow. I'm worried about today."

It's the eighth time Rodriguez has won the award and his fourth time winning it as a Yankee. During the stretch, he hit two walk-off home runs, one of them a grand slam.

The two-time American League MVP said this season -- his fourth as a Yankee -- has been his most comfortable in New York. After cutting some body fat and working with hitting coach Kevin Long to shorten his swing, A-Rod says he feels younger and more athletic.

Many fans consider Rodriguez to be the most gifted player in the Major Leagues. Or maybe they just expect it after he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers before the 2001 season. Either way, if one of the top players in baseball says he's feeling younger than his 31-year-old body and is getting more athletic as his career moves forward, that's scary -- at least to every pitcher who has to face him.

Rodriguez had outhomered five Major League teams through last Sunday. Barry Bonds' single-season record of 73 home runs is in reach for A-Rod. At least, that's what manager Joe Torre would acknowledge.

"If he stays healthy, I don't know what the limit would be for him," Torre said. "He's very talented, and he's gifted. He doesn't take his ability for granted -- he's out there working every day and trying to keep himself ready to play."

Vladimir Guerrero, who shared player of the week honors with A-Rod in the first week of the season, finished second to the Yankees third baseman with a .366 average, seven homers and 23 RBIs during the month.

Sharp will present Rodriguez with a Sharp AQUO full HD LCD-TV for his historic April month, and he will also receive a trophy for the achievement.

But even with all the attention, all the records, and all the statistics, Rodriguez isn't as happy as he could be. The Yankees haven't been winning regularly, and he hopes to change that on Wednesday as the team looks to win its third game in the last four days.

"Once we get on a roll, I think we're going to be fine," Rodriguez said. "The things to start worrying about this month is winning two out of three, three out of four. Small bites and small steps."

Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.